Three on a Match

Last updated

Three on a Match (1932)
ThreeOnAMatch.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay by Lucien Hubbard
Story by
Produced by
Starring
Cinematography Sol Polito
Edited byRay Curtiss
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Ray Heindorf
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • October 29, 1932 (1932-10-29)(US)
Running time
63 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Three on a Match is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama released by Warner Bros. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stars Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ann Dvorak and Bette Davis. The film also features Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins and Edward Arnold. [1]

Contents

Plot

Three women who went to the same New York City elementary school, Mary, Ruth, and Vivian, meet again as young adults after some time apart. They each light a cigarette from the same match and discuss the superstition that such an act is unlucky and that Vivian, the last to light her cigarette, will be the first to die.

Mary is a show girl who has established stability in her life after spending some time in a reform school, while Ruth works as a stenographer. Vivian is the best off of the three, married to successful lawyer, Robert Kirkwood, with a young son, Robert Jr., but she has grown dissatisfied with her life and so decides to take a trip to Europe with her little boy.

Just before Vivian and Junior's ship is about to set sail, Mary boards the ocean liner with two men to attend a bon voyage party for some friends. Gambler Michael Loftus, one of the two men, flirts with Vivian. She's smitten with him and he persuades her to run away with him. Minutes before the ship leaves port, Vivian gathers up her son and the three disembark from the boat.

Vivian and Michael Loftus live a very shabby and rather dissolute life, so that Mary, concerned about Vivian's neglect of her son, tells Robert (nearly mad about the disappearance of the boy) where to find him. Both Mary and Ruth are very fond of Junior and Robert has fallen in love with Mary. He proposes to her and hires Ruth to look after the child. Mary and Robert marry the same day his divorce from Vivian becomes final.

Meanwhile, Vivian has become a hopeless drug addict and has spent all of her money. Additionly, Michael owes $2,000 to gangster Ace, who tells him to pay up or else. Desperate, Michael tries to blackmail Robert by threatening to inform the press about Mary's criminal background. Robert refuses to pay because he is already aware of Mary's checkered past; so instead, Michael kidnaps Junior to demand a ransom to pay his debt. Ace's thugs find the child with Michael and Vivian in their apartment where Junior joins his mother in her bedroom. The thugs are delighted and send a demand for a much larger ransom of $25,000.

Vivian begins having withdrawals. One of the gangsters, while out trying to score a fix for her, sees policemen in the neighborhood going door to door searching for the kidnapped boy. The gangsters decide to kill the child before the police arrive, but Michael balks at the plan, especially since he's the one who's been ordered to do the dirty deed. Enraged, the gangsters kill Michael.

In the meantime, Vivian has overheard the plot to kill Junior and is determined to save her son's life at all costs. She tells Junior to hide under the bed, then scrawls a message in lipstick on the front of her nightgown that relays the boy's whereabouts. Just as the gangsters are coming through her bedroom door, she jumps out of the fourth-floor window, killing herself but resulting in the boy's rescue.

Cast

Production

Dvorak was the last of the four principal actors to be cast. [2] This was Bogart's first appearance as a hoodlum type, although his work in Midnight (released 1934) preceded this role and led to his being cast by LeRoy. [3]

Filming took place in June 1932. [4]

When this film was released in October 1932, the Lindbergh kidnapping was very much in the news and the kidnappers had not yet been caught. The kidnapping of a child in the story raised concerns with censors, but Jason Joy of the Studio Relations Committee [lower-alpha 1] successfully made a case for the film to the censors in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. [5]

Joan Blondell in a banned 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film Three on a Match Joan Blondell banned 1932 publicity photo.jpg
Joan Blondell in a banned 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film Three on a Match

Promotion

Joan Blondell posed for a risqué 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film which was later banned under the Motion Picture Production Code.

Reception

Three on a Match received tepid to poor notices overall. [4] [6] Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times called Three on a Match "tedious and distasteful" as well as "unintelligent". [7] The Time reviewer felt the film did not carry much weight, unlike previous Glasmon–Bright productions, [lower-alpha 2] and that the suicide at the end was more implausible than tragic. [8] Kaspar Monahan of the Pittsburgh Press thought that it began with the hope of being "different" but ultimately devolved into a "gangster yarn" and summarized: "Direction good for the most part; acting as good as can be expected under the circumstances; story erratic." [9]

The Spokane Spokesman-Review expressed admiration for the way the passage of time is shown through several montage sequences, calling it "a brand new approach and treatment ..." and commented that the film "rang true". [10]

Trade paper reviews advised exhibitors to focus on the cast: "An attractive cast array is the attendance motive for this picture which is surprising in its meager demands upon its quartet of featured people" was the opening comment of Variety 's Sid Silverman. [11] The Film Daily review, too, said the "cast helps" with a plot that has "too many turns". [12] The Motion Picture Herald also advised exhibitors to focus on the "strength of the cast names" and not to even use the word "kidnaping" or allude to it in promotions. [13]

Decades after its release, the film found more favor with critics and film historians. In 1969, William K. Everson called it "unusually carefully-made" and wrote, "Splendidly cut and paced ... and climaxed by a real shocker, Three on a Match is still a vivid little picture". [14] Wheeler Winston Dixon observed, "the film is astonishing for the amount of information that LeRoy manages to compress into this lightning fast tale". [15] It has been pointed to as Dvorak's best performance for Warners. [16]

Leonard Maltin gives the film three out of four stars, describing it as a “Fine, fast-moving (and surprisingly potent) pre-Code melodrama of three girls who renew childhood friendship, only to find suspense and tragedy. Dvorak is simply marvelous.” [17]

In 1938 Warner Bros. released Broadway Musketeers , a remake of Three on a Match. [18]

Related Research Articles

Humphrey Bogart American actor (1899–1957)

Humphrey DeForest Bogart, nicknamed Bogie, was an American film and stage actor. His performances in Classical Hollywood cinema films made him an American cultural icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.

<i>Footlight Parade</i> 1933 film by Lloyd Bacon

Footlight Parade is a 1933 American pre-Code musical film starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell and featuring Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert and Ruth Donnelly. The film was written by Manuel Seff and James Seymour based on a story by Robert Lord and Peter Milne, and was directed by Lloyd Bacon, with musical numbers created and directed by Busby Berkeley. The film's songs were written by Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics), Sammy Fain (music) and Irving Kahal (lyrics), and include "By a Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel" and "Shanghai Lil".

<i>The Public Enemy</i> 1931 film

The Public Enemy is a 1931 American all-talking pre-Code gangster film produced and distributed by Warner Bros. The film was directed by William A. Wellman and stars James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, Donald Cook and Joan Blondell. The film relates the story of a young man's rise in the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America. The supporting players include Beryl Mercer, Murray Kinnell, and Mae Clarke. The screenplay is based on an unpublished novel—Beer and Blood by two former newspapermen, John Bright and Kubec Glasmon—who had witnessed some of Al Capone's murderous gang rivalries in Chicago. In 1998, The Public Enemy was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Joan Blondell American actress (1906–1979)

Joan Blondell was an American actress who performed in film and television for half a century.

Lauren Bacall American actress (1924–2014)

Lauren Bacall was an American actress. She was named the 20th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 in recognition of her contribution to the Golden Age of motion pictures. She was known initially for her alluring, sultry presence and her distinctive, husky voice. Bacall was one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

<i>Marked Woman</i> 1937 film directed by Lloyd Bacon

Marked Woman is a 1937 American dramatic crime film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan, Eduardo Ciannelli and Allen Jenkins. Set in the underworld of Manhattan, Marked Woman tells the story of a woman who dares to stand up to one of the city's most powerful gangsters.

George Raft American actor

George Raft was an American film actor and dancer identified with portrayals of gangsters in crime melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s. A stylish leading man in dozens of movies, Raft is remembered for his gangster roles in Quick Millions (1931) with Spencer Tracy, Scarface (1932) with Paul Muni, Each Dawn I Die (1939) with James Cagney, Invisible Stripes (1939) with Humphrey Bogart, Billy Wilder's comedy Some Like It Hot (1959) with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, and as a dancer in Bolero (1934) with Carole Lombard and a truck driver in They Drive by Night (1940) with Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino and Bogart.

George Brent Irish-American actor

George Brent was an Irish-American stage, film, and television actor. He is best remembered for the eleven films he made with Bette Davis, which included Jezebel and Dark Victory.

Ann Dvorak American actress

Ann Dvorak was an American stage and film actress.

Lila Lee Prominent screen actress of the early silent film era

Lila Lee was a prominent screen actress, primarily a leading lady, of the silent film and early sound film eras.

James Kirkwood Sr. American actor and film director

James Cornelius Kirkwood Sr. was an American actor and director.

Julie Bishop (actress) American film and television actress

Julie Bishop, previously known as Jacqueline Wells, was an American film and television actress. She appeared in more than 80 films between 1923 and 1957.

Genevieve Tobin American actress (1899–1995)

Genevieve Tobin was an American actress.

<i>Stand-In</i> 1937 American film directed by Tay Garnett

Stand-In is a 1937 American screwball comedy, directed by Tay Garnett and starring Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart. The picture was produced by the independent Walter Wanger, and released by United Artists. It is set in Hollywood and parodies many aspects of the film industry during the Classical Era.

<i>Bullets or Ballots</i> 1936 film by Edward G. Robinson, William Keighley

Bullets or Ballots is a 1936 gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane, and Humphrey Bogart. Robinson plays a police detective who infiltrates a crime gang. This is the first of several films featuring both Robinson and Bogart.

<i>Havana Widows</i> 1933 film

Havana Widows is a 1933 American pre-Code comedy film directed by Ray Enright, starring Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell. It was released by Warner Bros. on November 18, 1933. Two chorus girls travel to Havana in search of rich husbands. Their target is Deacon Jones, a self-appointed moralist who cannot drink without getting drunk.

<i>The Crowd Roars</i> (1932 film) 1932 American film

The Crowd Roars is a 1932 American pre-Code film directed by Howard Hawks starring James Cagney and featuring Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Eric Linden, Guy Kibbee, and Frank McHugh. A film of the same name was made in 1938 with a different story, starring Robert Taylor.

Broadway's Like That (1929) is a 10-minute Vitaphone short film starring Ruth Etting, with Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart and Mary Philips. Bogart and Philips were married at the time of this film.

<i>Miss Pacific Fleet</i> 1935 film by Ray Enright

Miss Pacific Fleet is a 1935 American comedy film directed by Ray Enright. The film stars Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell, and Hugh Herbert. The film was based on the short story of the same name by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan in the Collier's magazine. It was released by Warner Bros. on December 14, 1935. Two stranded showgirls in California enter a beauty contest "Miss Pacific Fleet" to win the fare back home to New York City.

<i>Sky Devils</i> 1932 film

Sky Devils, also known as Ground Hogs, is a 1932 American Pre-Code aviation comedy film, starring Spencer Tracy as a draft dodger who blunders into a war zone.

References

Informational notes

  1. The arm of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America tasked with implementing the Hays Code
  2. e.g., The Public Enemy (1931)

Citations

  1. "Three on a Match]". Turner Classic Movies . Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  2. Ralph Wilk (May 27, 1932). "A Little from the 'Lots'". The Film Daily . LIX (49): 7. Retrieved October 15, 2015 via Internet Archive.
  3. Richard Schickel (2006). Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart. St. Martin's Press. p. 99. ISBN   978-0-312-36629-2.
  4. 1 2 Christina Rice (2013). Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 83–84, 88. ISBN   978-0-8131-4440-5.
  5. Ruth Vasey (1997). The World According to Hollywood, 1918–1939. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 110. ISBN   978-0-299-15194-2.
  6. Jeff Stafford. "Three on a Match (1932)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  7. Mordaunt Hall (October 29, 1932). "Blackmail and Kidnapping". New York Times . Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  8. "Cinema: The New Pictures: Nov. 7, 1932", Time . (subscription required)
  9. Kaspar Monahan (November 4, 1932). "The Show Stops". The Pittsburgh Press . p. 48. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  10. "Ann Dvorak Star in Film at Fox". The Spokesman-Review . November 17, 1932. p. 5. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  11. Sid Silverman (November 1, 1932). "Three on a Match". Film Reviews. Variety . 108 (8): 12. Retrieved October 17, 2015 via Internet Archive.
  12. "Three on a Match". The Film Daily. LX (102): 6. October 29, 1932. Retrieved October 17, 2015 via Internet Archive.
  13. "Three on a Match". Showmen's Reviews. Motion Picture Herald . 109 (1): 52–53. October 1, 1932. Retrieved October 17, 2015 via Internet Archive.
  14. William K. Everson (February 21, 1969). "Program Notes: 'Three on a Match'" (PDF). William K. Everson Archive. New York University. Retrieved October 18, 2015.
  15. Wheeler Winston Dixon (2013). "Precursors to Film Noir". In Andre Spicer; Helen Hanson (eds.). A Companion to Film Noir. John Wiley & Sons. p. 100. ISBN   978-1-118-52371-1.
  16. Ray Hagen; Laura Wagner (2004). Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. McFarland. p. 54. ISBN   978-0-7864-8073-9.
  17. "Three on a Match (1932) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  18. "Broadway Musketeers". Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute . Retrieved October 17, 2015.